Indicating a shift in Centre’s Kashmir policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it’s not his job to list out the problems of Jammu and Kashmir and woo the people on emotional issues, but, rather, solve those problems one at a time.
He said one of the biggest problems of Jammu and Kashmir is the settlement of lakhs of migrants. “The settlement of the migrants is a major issue in Jammu, where most of them are living,” he said.
“It’s not my job to woo the people by listing out the problems of Jammu and Kashmir. I am the person who will take one problem in hand at a time and solve it. Now, see the state of affairs of the state where 20% population are migrants. Isn’t it our job to settle them,” the PM said in his address at a rally in Kargil on Tuesday.
An equally important was the venue he chose to suggest a new line of thinking by the Centre. Kargil, close to Srinagar, is the only Shia majority district of the state. It has categorically stayed away from the separatists’ narrative.
The ‘Kashmir solution’ is a major political narrative in the Valley. The separatists have questioned the writ of the Indian Constitution, while the Nation Conference and the People’s Democratic Party bat for ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘self-rule’ respectively from time to time.
However, the J&K chief minister had even gone to the extent of saying that if Article 370, which guarantees a special status to the state, is revoked, Jammu and Kashmir will cease to be a part of India.
These are emotional political issues, to which Modi hinted, he wouldn’t give much importance. He didn’t make any reference to any of them in his second visit to the state in about two months.
The Prime Minister, however, suggested, it’s the settlement of the migrants which is his main concern.
“The 20% of the state population are migrants. Two lakh people are refugees from West Pakistan, one lakh are migrants from the Chammb sector, four lakh are Kashmiri Pandits, and, eight lakh people are those affected by terrorism. We should take care of them. They have been neglected. I assure them they are our brothers and we will settle them,” he said.
The West Pakistan refugees, who are settled in Jammu, don’t have citizenship rights of the state, which is given only to the permanent residents of the state. The state government says they are ‘guests’ of the state, even after 67 years. The people from Chammb were displaced during the Indo-Pakistan conflicts and have still not got full settlement. These are two Jammu-centric issues, on which Modi has focused.
Recalling or deliberately evoking the experience of the Kutch region in Gujarat, he said, “Earlier, whoever visited the Kutch Muslim majority areas, used to talk about the border problem and Pakistan. But, before I was to visit there on becoming the chief minister to assess the damage by the devastating earthquake, some people from there called on me and told me not to waste time on these rhetoric, but focus on future. From then onwards, I only talked about developments. The people there also wear dresses like Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir,’ said Modi.